Rural roads and bridges are in a crisis.
That was the sentiment during a legislative luncheon Friday, March 28, at Lakeside Casino. Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, and Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, were in attendance.
“I’ve never been a proponent of just the 10 cent, off the top gas tax,” Sinclair said. “Frankly, because it’s shortsighted and would be irrelevant in about five years, according to a lot of county engineers. It does adversely affect rural Iowa, in particularly border counties.”
She said she has heard of a recent legislative proposal that’s a hybrid of lowering the cents per gallon of gas, but adding an excise tax to it.
“It’s still a tax increase, and it still gives me some cause for concern,” Sinclair said.
She encouraged the public to contact or email her if they have thoughts, concerns and constructive ideas on the subject.
Clarke County Supervisor Larry Keller said there’s a movie titled “Bridge of No Return,” and Clarke County is “already there.”
Keller referenced a cattle farmer who used to drive across a county bridge to feed his cattle, and now has to drive a 10-mile trip around to feed the cattle because of the poor condition of the bridge.
“We’re all in the same problem — the people in the county, the people who farm, the school system — everyone has this situation to deal with,” Keller said. “We definitely need to come to a realization that it has to be taken care of. I don’t know if the 10 cent sales tax is the way to go. I hope someone has a good idea. I hope we can get it passed.”
Sinclair said, two weeks ago, she returned home from the capitol and her husband was at the door, mad about the news of the Iowa Department of Transportation purchasing cameras to mount on the front of snows plows to “see the snow leaving the road.”
“Priorities are skewed,” she said. “Priorities are skewed when we’re mounting cameras on the fronts of snow plows rather than fixing bridges. So, it’s really, really hard to be OK with sending the DOT 60 percent of all that funding when they seem to have enough to mount cameras on the fronts of snow plows and redesign a logo that cost them a million bucks. It’s concerning.”
According to Sinclair, a supervisor in Wayne County told her they closed three bridges in the past week. She said she is constantly working on the issue to try to find the right solution.
Pilot manager’s input
Will Sanders, regional manager for Pilot Travel Centers, said he wanted to echo the fact the infrastructure needs help.
However, he said the company’s concern is their number one customer with revenue and profitability, which are the over-the-road truck drivers from other states who drive through Iowa and go elsewhere.
Those truck drivers are being informed on where to fuel their vehicles for the best price. Sanders said it would be easy to bypass the state of Iowa.
“From a diesel perspective right now, the tax on fuel is 41.7 cents,” Sanders said. “So, we’re already nearly 7 cents higher on diesel tax than Missouri, and if we go an additional 10 cents, it’s going to make it a competitive disadvantage for us, especially this location, to fight against Missouri.”